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PhD in Strategic Communications Programs

Mar 29, 2019

In strategic communication Ph.D. programs, students examine how organizations use techniques from advertising, public relations, and related fields to communicate with their publics. Read on for details on the courses and admission requirements common to these programs.

Doctoral programs emphasizing strategic communication allow students to focus on approaches organizations use in communicating with their stakeholders and audiences. Students at the Ph.D. level conduct research and take classes in advertising, public relations, and other communication fields to prepare primarily for academic careers. Prospective students can find strategic communication programs either offered as distinct doctoral degrees or tracks within media or communication Ph.D. programs.

Strategic Communication Ph.D. Program Information

Strategic communication Ph.D. programs usually require the completion of between 60 and 90 credit hours. In addition to classes like those listed below, strategic communication doctoral students complete comprehensive examinations and compose a research-based dissertation.

Communication Theory

Foundational courses in strategic communication graduate programs examine major theories underlying communication practices. Students learn how theories guiding the field are constructed and researched. Theory courses may be focused specifically on strategic communication or on the broader field of mass communication. These classes often incorporate perspectives from both the humanities and social sciences.

Research Methods

To prepare students to conduct independent research, strategic communication doctoral programs emphasize research methods and usually require one or more classes on the subject. Classes in this area may focus on quantitative methods of collecting and analyzing data including experiments, surveys, and content analyses. Alternatively, methods classes may cover qualitative approaches to communication research including focus groups, interviews, and ethnographies.

Strategic Communication

Doctoral students in these programs usually complete a course or courses specifically devoted to strategic communication. These classes examine strategic communication campaigns and the theories behind them. They may discuss how components of the communication industry including public relations, journalism, and organizational communication impact strategic communication. They may also examine prior research and compare the practice of strategic communication in various contexts including politics and health communication.

Risk Communication

Since handling risks and crises is a key aspect of strategic communication, graduate programs in this area include coursework on the topic. Risk communication classes examine how organizations communicate during times of crises, the functions of these communication efforts, and how they are received by the public. The impact of media and online communication may be included.

Communication Seminar

Doctoral level programs in strategic communication include courses structured as seminars. These seminars may deal with a variety of topics, and the topics may vary from semester to semester. This flexible approach allows programs to cover issues of current interest in the field including contemporary communication practices or research directions. Graduate students often have the option to take several seminars on varied topics during their coursework.

Strategic Communication Ph.D. Program Admissions

Applicants to Ph.D. programs in strategic communication should hold a master's degree from an accredited institution, and schools may require a minimum GPA of at least 3.0 in a student's master's program and undergraduate program. Prospective students should also submit GRE scores; programs may prefer or require competitive scores of 301 or higher. Programs also usually request a statement of purpose outlining an applicant's research goals and a writing sample reflecting an applicant's academic abilities. Additional requirements often include letters of recommendation and a resume.

Strategic communication doctoral programs include coursework and research opportunities in areas including risk communication, current issues in the field, and communication theory. As they complete classes, exams, and a dissertation, qualified applicants can expect to gain a greater understanding of how organizations use media to communicate.


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